Maxwell turns BBL season on its head in 20 minutes

For starters, the Stars will head to Hobart for a semi-final against the Hurricanes on Thursday night. As long as they have a fit Maxwell, the Stars must be a chance to come away with a win from the Apple Isle.

Cricket Australia must surely be relieved too, because a Sixers win would have meant Brisbane Heat had qualified for the semi-finals on the back of their controversial “no result” at the Gabba against Sydney Thunder earlier in the tournament.

The Melbourne Renegades can also thank their crosstown rivals. The magnitude of the Stars’ win was such that the Sixers’ net run-rate slipped below that of the Renegades. The upshot is that the Renegades will host a semi-final against the Sixers on Friday night, rather than the match being played in Sydney.

All this had looked unlikely until very late in the Stars’ innings.

Despite a hot start from Marcus Stoinis, who whacked Lloyd Pope for 16 from the first over of the game, the Stars had been suffocated by a spin-heavy Sixers attack.

Yet again Ben Dunk and Nic Maddinson flopped. After 16 overs, the Stars were 4-101 after being sent in. The MCG pitch didn’t look to be an easy one for batting, but this wasn’t a winning pace.

Maxwell’s innings to that point had been most un-Maxwell like. He was just 17 from 20 balls, and hadn’t hit a boundary.

How that was about to change. There would be 24 legal deliveries to come in the Stars innings. Maxwell faced 23 of them, making 65 runs in the process. Included in the explosion were four fours and six sixes. None of the Sixers’ death bowlers were spared, with Nathan Lyon, Sean Abbott and Ben Dwarshuis all in Maxwell’s firing line.

Maxwell’s farming of the strike was outstanding. Dwayne Bravo didn’t even face a ball, run out for a diamond duck after slipping while coming back for a second in the 17th over. Bravo’s dismissal brought Seb Gotch to the middle.

Together Gotch and Maxwell put on 52 for the sixth wicket. Gotch made one of those runs, from the only ball he faced.

By the time Maxwell fell for 82 on the final ball of the innings, his team’s season had been revived. The Stars finished with 6-168, a tough mountain to scale for the Sixers.

Even so, Maxwell’s innings would have meant nothing if his bowlers couldn’t back him up. They did all that and more. The scorecard was ugly for the Sixers as Daniel Worrall, Jackson Bird, Adam Zampa, Sandeep Lamichhane and Maxwell himself ran through the visitors, who were bowled out for 74 in the 14th over.

So just what sort of damage can the Stars do in the BBL finals? Their best this season has been irresistible, while their worst has been very pedestrian. Aside from Maxwell and Stoinis, who looms as a likely player of the tournament, they have been unable to find another reliable batsman, notwithstanding some handy contributions from Peter Handscomb.

Dunk looked to have turned the corner mid-season after a couple of compelling knocks but the two-time BBL leading runscorer has been unable to generate momentum.

Meanwhile Maddinson has looked a shadow of the player that amassed 162 at this venue in a Sheffield Shield match two months ago. It was in the second innings of that clash in which Maddinson’s arm was broken by a Jhye Richardson short ball. The batsman returned after just a month on the sidelines and is yet to make an impression with the Stars. From eight innings he has a high score of just 19.

Daniel is an Age sports reporter.

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